Sales Tips for Every Business
Sales Tips for Every Business.
Being in lockdown is not only frustrating, but for traditional sales techniques, it is devastating. We have compiled these articles to assist you in thinking outside the box.
The coronavirus pandemic has struck at the very heart of what makes sales organizations tick. Sales leaders are asking: What should we do now to keep our field-sales organization safe and productive? And what does this mean for the future of selling?
The answers vary across industries, as captured vividly by a recent Goldman Sachs headline, “Light at the End of the Tunnel or an Oncoming Train? Depends on Where You Are Standing.” Some industries, such as transportation, hospitality, and real estate, have suffered immensely and face an existential crisis. Others, such as teleconferencing, online learning, and virtual private networks (VPNs), are experiencing a sharp upturn in demand. In between, most industries are experiencing a demand slump. The direct and knock-on effects are continuing to reverberate through companies and industries.
Faced with these challenges, sales organizations need to refocus, retool, retrench, and, in most cases, prepare for the eventual rebound.
A defining characteristic of the buyer’s mindset is deep uncertainty. At the very outset of the refocusing process, sellers acknowledge that uncertainty and adapt with flexibility. Once employers and salespeople have moved beyond the acute concern about personal safety, business continuity will come to the fore. Companies will have to reconsider what customers now value and what the sales organization’s role in delivering that value can be.
Buyers in industries that are not seriously impaired or are seeing a spike in demand will still need help from salespeople. Buyers in immobilized industries will want salespeople to revise past orders and delivery schedules and develop contingency plans. As business deteriorates and many customers face the specter of bankruptcy, previously booked business will no longer be secure.
Even when customers are buying, sellers may be unable to deliver on past promises. It will be easier for salespeople to deal with repeat customers who are familiar with the company and its value and already know how to work with the sales team. Outreach will also be easier with digitally savvy customers who prefer video and digital interaction to in-person meetings and with informed customers who need limited assistance from salespeople.
If and while customers are preoccupied, especially in temporarily hard-hit industries, sales organizations can focus on activities that prepare for future success. These include activities such as generating leads and account prioritization and planning.
As the situation changes and new information emerges, a nimble mindset will be essential for adapting rapidly.
With the mandate for social distancing, even field salespeople now have to work remotely, using online video, social selling, email, and more. (Within days of the pandemic declaration, the number of Zoom meetings at our consulting firm, ZS, shot up from 4,000 to 11,000 a day.) We estimate that, well before work-from-home directives, most field salespeople were communicating with customers digitally more than half of the time. This was enabled by the increasing quality and ubiquity of digital-communication technologies, along with the growing majority of buyers and sellers who are digital natives. Digital connection works especially well with repeat customers and buyers who are well-informed. Still, many field salespeople and buyers have shunned digital channels and aids, either because they could or because they missed the technology train.
That will have to change. The current crisis will force even the technology-challenged to migrate to video platforms such as Zoom. We see this already in people’s personal lives.
Ravaged industries such as travel and entertainment have already laid off many salespeople. Some of these jobs will never return. Downsized sales organizations must redeploy field-sales efforts to key customers and sales activities while boosting digital self-service and inside sales channels. Eroding sales will constrain companies’ ability to pay salespeople incentives, which often represent a large portion of salespeople’s pay.
A few companies are following a courageous path. Before the Covid-19 outbreak, the London-based bank HSBC had announced staff reductions, which included sales jobs. When the pandemic hit, the bank temporarily paused these layoffs. How long companies in hard-hit industries can support their people while keeping their business viable remains to be seen.
It’s hard to look beyond the urgent steps needed to respond to the current economic freeze. But however long it takes, the situation will eventually improve, and most companies will rebound. Some trends that were already affecting sales organizations before Covid-19 are likely to accelerate as companies bounce back. And many changes to personal selling implemented during the crisis that looks temporary now will become permanent.
More Digital Selling. Even before the pandemic hit, most field sales contact with business customers already used digital channels. With the extended forced virtual-only communication period, even slow adopters of technology are changing. The virality of digital usage is accelerating the climb up the digital learning curve for customers, salespeople, and entire sales organizations.
Fewer Field Salespeople, More Inside Salespeople, and Customer Success Managers (CSMs). In recent years, growth in the number of jobs for inside salespeople and CSMs has far outpaced growth in jobs for field salespeople. These trends will accelerate as companies rebounding from the pandemic seek to match sales efforts with the way their customers want to buy. Inside sales roles reduce sales costs and align well with digitally savvy and informed buyers. CSMs encourage customer loyalty and retention by helping customers realize ongoing value. CSM numbers are increasing as companies expand focus on growth from existing customers, especially in complex environments.
New Success Profiles for Field Salespeople. With the shift to digitally-enabled buying and selling, more-informed customers expect salespeople to add value beyond what websites provide. As the use of digital tools and analytics grows, field salespeople will need more than interpersonal skills. The old profile of a winning salesperson as a rugged individualist is giving way to a new profile: a team player who can collaborate with others.
A More Digitally Savvy Sales Organization. Practically every aspect of the sales organization will accelerate down the path of digital value and innovation. Sales managers will become more comfortable coaching and managing remotely. Sales organizations will leverage technology to make sales recruiting, training, and other programs more effective and efficient. We expect many field sales organizations to emerge from this difficult time with a digitally savvier sales culture well-positioned to drive future success.
What to do when a health crisis changes the way we work
The COVID-19 outbreak showed us just how quickly life could change. One of the biggest impacts was made on how we work and the level and supporting our employees, customers, and peers need.
Entire organizations have adopted remote working infrastructure at a rapid pace, ensuring those who can work from home can do so. Many were successful, while others are still overcoming teething pains.
So, what’s the best response to a crisis like this? How do we shift our behavior and routines with minimal disruption?
In general, it’s great to have the tools and flexibility for remote working set up in your organization, regardless of whether or not you will use them in your day-to-day. Having these infrastructures, technologies, and processes in place is vital, especially when a major life event or public crisis keeps you or your team away from the office.
For example, sales teams must implement a stack that allows for internal communication and reliable video calls with prospects.
Processes also need reviewing. What policies will you put in place to allow people to do their best work? For example, during the COVID-19 outbreak, many schools have been shut down. This means parents must strike a balance between work and look after their children.
To respond to this, many organizations have adopted flexible working hours. As long as team members are available for two to three hours a day for communication, it doesn’t matter when they get their work done.
Audit the activities you conduct daily and see how you can optimize them for optimal remote working efficiency. Ask your team for their perspective, and allow them to contribute.
After all, these changes affect everyone in different ways. Take a dynamic approach and empower your team to perform to the best of their abilities.
For salespeople used to the hustle and bustle of a lively office, the sudden change to remote working can be challenging. Not only do they need to find a new routine, but they get a handle on new technologies for communication and collaboration.
This new, enforced way of working applies to sales managers, too. Your processes and training workflows must adapt; keeping salespeople motivated and engaged requires a different approach.
Making these changes doesn’t have to be daunting. As a sales leader, you have a responsibility to keep your team safe, create effective remote working policies and communicate them clearly.
Advise your team to follow their government’s guidelines and to do their best to stay out of harm’s way. You can help by ensuring they never need to break a recommended safety policy for work. This means implementing a 100% work from home policy, with guidance on how to maximize productivity.
Luckily, getting your remote environment up and running is fast and simple.
Most importantly, expect pipeline volume to be volatile. Let your team know that this is OK and that you have a plan to weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side.
Your customers will also feel the pain during times of crisis. Their priorities will shift, often overnight, as they face new and unexpected challenges.
As you help your team adjust to a new reality, no matter how temporary it may be, you must also do the same for your customers. The best philosophy to adopt? Serve first, then sell.
Yes, it’s important to continue closing deals. But there should also be a focus on helping customers and prospects facing new uncertainties in their lives.
For example, it’s wise to pause your cold email initiatives as a crisis breaks out. Standard messaging may seem tactless during this crisis. Instead, take this time to rework and re-frame your messaging to align with your customer’s most urgent needs.
But don’t leave them “on pause” forever. As people adjust, use that time to craft more value-driven and empathetic messaging. Once the workforce is more acclimated to this new reality, continue cold outreach initiatives with helpful content that customers and prospects can immediately benefit from.
It will help if you communicate your company directives to your team. Make them aware that a new direction is necessary and outline a policy on what they should and shouldn’t be including in their messaging. Get them involved in the process to have a sense of ownership and a duty to serve prospects.
We’ve identified three critical business-driven priorities for sales teams during this crisis:
- Generate and communicate empathetic messaging to employees and your audience
- Prevent pipeline decay
- Identify new business opportunities
Depending on your industry, sales may drop. Adapting to sudden and temporary changes in consumer behavior is an effective way to combat this. In the B2B world, your buyers will shift priorities to adapt, and you must do the same.
Listen to and serve your existing prospects. How are they being affected by this health crisis, and how can you help them beyond your sales processes? For example, if you usually share content with prospects, start collating timely information that impacts their industry and roles as it’s published from third-party sources, and see if you can create or adapt your own.
New opportunities will also emerge. How can your product or solution serve your customers during this time? What features could be used to tackle these new challenges?
Capitalizing on these opportunities requires a great deal of care, and it can be tempting to jump toward discounting to tackle these issues. Resist this temptation and focus on how to serve your customers best instead.
Create opportunities for new business
Maybe the fish aren’t biting. But that doesn’t mean all your sales efforts should come to a grinding halt. During the off-season, your prospects aren’t getting flooded with calls—which is precisely why you should call them.
Get a leg up on the competition, and start building new relationships that will blossom in the future by picking up the phone.
Call new prospects, and say:
“Hey, I just wanted to reach out to you. I know that nobody’s buying right now, and that’s okay—I’m not trying to make a sale right now. All I’m trying to do is get to know you better so that in the next quarter or year, whenever you make your buying decision, you know me, you know what I can do for you, and you know if you want to do business with me or not.”
Don’t try to push for the sale—customers hate it when salespeople try to get them to buy when they aren’t ready. Instead, position yourself so that your name is the first one that pops into their heads when they are ready to make the purchase.
Start the relationship off on the right foot when they know you’re not selling anything yet—it makes it that much easier to start building trust now and drill down before game time.
Don’t do this on your own! We all need help and support, especially during a worldwide pandemic. Should you need assistance during this difficult period in developing sales strategies, do not hesitate to give hughesagency.ca a call.
Article compiled by hughesagency.ca
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